An eight-year-old Indonesian boy who smokes more than a pack of cigarettes a day will undergo a month of therapy to kick his four-year habit, a child welfare official said.
Indonesia’s Child Protection Commission chairman, Arist Merdeka Sirait, said the boy, Ilham, who smokes around 25 cigarettes a day, needed “emergency help” as his addiction had reached “alert level,” affecting his behaviour.
“You can see a dramatic change of behaviour when he doesn’t have a cigarette for a while. He becomes emotionally aggressive and uncontrollable. He acts like he’s possessed by evil spirits,” Sirait said.
The boy’s father, Agan Umar, said his son would become enraged and “smash glass windows or whatever’s around” if he is not constantly given cigarettes.
“I hope the therapy works so my son can go back to school and live a normal life like the other kids,” Umar said.
The boy will leave his village in Sukabumi in western Java on Monday to start receiving intensive specialist care in the capital Jakarta, Sirait said.
“We’ll give him a medical check-up to examine the impact his smoking has had on his health, and he’ll be given psycho-social therapy to divert his attention from smoking to playing,” he said.
Indonesia has the world’s highest percentage of young smokers, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report from 2006, which found more than 37 percent of high school and university students smoked.
The report found 25 percent of children between the age of three and 15 had tried smoking.
A two-year-old boy on Sumatra island kicked the habit with a similar treatment after a video emerged in 2010 of the overweight toddler drawing heavily on a cigarette. His parents admitted he smoked 40 cigarettes a day.
Smoking rates have risen six-fold in Indonesia over the last 40 years, with 89 million Indonesians in a population of 240 million smoking today, WHO data shows.
The government has done little to regulate big tobacco’s activities in Indonesia, other than increasing excise taxes.
But prices remain extremely low by international standards, with a pack of 20 costing little more than a US dollar.
After food, cigarettes account for the second-largest household expenditure, with half the population still living on less than $2 a day.